Higher Education Highlights - Spring 2017

On March 28, 2017, the United States Supreme Court was poised to hear Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board—a case slated to meaningfully impact the rights of transgender students under Title IX. The Court certified two questions. First, it certified the question of whether courts should defer to the May 2016 Dear Colleague Letter issued by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The May 2016 DCL expressed the joint opinion of the Departments that gender identity discrimination is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX. Notably, it interpreted Title IX to “require that when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, . . . notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity.” This re-enforced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) position that gender identity discrimination is prohibited sex discrimination under Title VII. It also echoed several court opinions that Title VII protects against gender identity discrimination, and, in some cases, sexual orientation discrimination.

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